Race for Manila, the Philippines Campaign, 1941 - 42

Cover for Race for Manila by War Drum Group. Do you see whats wrong with this photo?

Title: Race for Manila
Price: $ 17.00 plus tax and shipping
Designer: Yasushi Nakaguro (2012)
Publisher: War Drum Game, (2018)
US Seller: Quarterdeck International Games

Subject and Scale:  A game about the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941. Scale looks to be grand operational scale as one doesn't worry about supply. The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) units are Regimental in size while the U.S. Army Forces of Far East (units comprised of US Army and Filipino personal (Allies) are divisional in size, except two - the 45th Infantry Battalion and the most famous of all Filipino Regiments, the US 26th Cavalry (Horse) Regiment. This was the last of the US Army Horse Cavalry and actually the best trained and equipped military unit in the Philippines. (note - not my view, but that of the US Army and General Staff and the Philippine Government).

Map Area: Majority of the island of Luzon, Philippines.

Components and Physical Quality:  Components include some of the nicest mounted counters, I have ever seen. They must be laser cut, Jack pointed out to me that these counters are not laser cut, but very well die cut as the counters fall out of the the tree, very easy. They are 15mm in size, very good for those of us with large hands to grasp and move about. No clean up is needed. Counters are single-sided.

The counters include seven IJA units, nine Allied units, one game turn marker, seven "Fatigued" markers and three variable victory conditional markers for each side.

Race for Manila map
The game map is aprx 10 1/8" by 14 5/16" in size and very well done. Each hex is 20mm and not overly big.  Hexes are outline in white, with the IJA beachheads (where the IJA units can land as they are off map in the IJA Holding Box). The Allies setup hexes are printed directly on the game map. Ports, towns, Manila city, airfields, and of course Corregidor, are printed on the game map.

Included are the game rules and an errata 1.1 sheet. The top half of the sheet (for possible gluing to the game map) has the various game charts (such as terrain and CRT) in English. Be aware that this sheet is not the same size of the area to cover, so I just kept it separate. Also on this same sheet are a few lines of errata.

There is also either Hanzi or Kanji (Kanji is the Japanese name for the Chinese writing (Hanzi). Words may be written the same, but they are pronounce very differently) written on the game map and rather than distract, it adds to the game, imho. I don't know which as the game was originally from Japan and then picked up by a Chinese wargame company. I have to plead ignorance here as I am not a fluid speaker of Hanzi or Kanji.

Complexity (scale of 1 -10): The game is rated as introductory. Once playing of the game has started, one will realized it is anything but introductory. I give this a "3" as the Allied player will be thinking and planning.

Gamer Versions/Scenarios: There is only one version of the game, with no additional scenarios.

Setup Time: About 10 minutes, if that long. One will take more time trying to open the beer than setting up.

Playing Time: My games ran anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours.

Solitaire Playability (Scale 1 to 10):  5. Not very well suited for solo play due to the use of the three variable victory condition markers on both sides. One could always just blindly pick the other side's variable victory condition marker and play where the non-human side must move towards the nearest enemy unit, but what fun is that? This is one of those games where two players are needed.  But where there is a will, there is a way and I would be interested in hearing from you on how you solo this game.

Rules: The rules are four pages in length, in English, and are satisfactory. Since they are translated, they are a little rough in a few areas, but reading thru them a few times will make sense of what is being said. There are nine cases (i.e. "headings") from the "Intro" to "Combat" with good examples of play where needed.  And if you have a problem, Jack Greene is only an email away and he will cheerfully answer your questions.

Play-Balance: The game, of course, highly favors the Japanese.  Out of my 10 games, the IJA player won 90% (yup, thats right, 9 out of 10 times).

Description of Play:  On Game Turn 1, only the IJA players gets a turn (rule 5.3.1). From game turn 2 to the end, play is as follows:
  • Allied Player
    • Either Movement phase or Combat phase.  (yes, one or the other)
    • Recovery Phase.
  • IJA Player
    • 1st Movement phase or Combat phase.
    • 2nd Movement phase or Combat phase. Cannot conduct same phase two times in a row in a player's turn (ex - two movements in the same turn).
    • Recovery Phase  
  • Air Combat Phase (see rule 4.3)
That's it.  And yes, The IJA player gets 2 movement/combat phases and a few other surprises, such as not being one hit kills (an IJA unit can take several hits before being removed from play). In addition, there is no stacking of units.

my counters
Miscellaneous Game Tidbits:  I made up s few counters that you can download for the game. After mounting and cutting them out, they may not match the beautiful counters in the games, but they are available.  And if you use a 3mm corner rounder, they will come close. These are "D" for disrupted, "Air Field Capture" counters and "unit moved" counters.  Not shown but also included in the counter mix are "Ports Captured" and "Manila, Open City". True, the game does not have many units where trying to remember what is what or where, for this to be a problem, but if you are like me, those counters are of use (short remembrance span).  I made them up and you are allowed to  use as needed.  Please no selling, unless you give me 5% of your sales.

Other Games Possibly Available:  After much searching, I have a found a few other games on this same subject, where the 1941 Japanese campaign for the Philippines is the main subject and not an offshoot of a strategic Pacific War game. Here they are-
  1. The Damned Die Hard by HMS/GRD (European)  A game in the Glory series that covers the 1941-42 campaign for the Philippines. The new operational and tactical naval system will be used in the game. Includes separate smaller-scale Bataan scenario (on its own map) and several ‘what-if’ scenarios that explore possibilities of varied additional reinforcements for both sides. Includes 9 quarter-size maps, 3 counter sheets (840 counters).  Price: $65 Product #911
  2. The Battle for the Philippines: Bataan (1973) by Balboa Game Co (out of print and I don't believe Balboa is in business anymore).
  3. Fall of the Philippines: MacArthur’s Defeat, 1941 by Minden Games (Panzer Digest #9, out of print).
  4. Bataan! is an operational-level game of the 1942 battles on the Bataan peninsula of the Philippines in WWII. Uneven player turns and Special Events, determined by random chit-pulls, combine to create a tense, hard-fought campaign. By Compass Games (unfortunately. out of print).
  5. MacArthur: The Road to Bataan covers the battle of Luzon Island during the winter of 1941-1942. Paper Wars Issue 90, still available. Thank you Jack for pointing this one out.
If there are any other games that cover the invasion of the Philippines 1941 and just not Corregidor, I would be happy to hear about them.

History of the Invasion: 
CMH Pub 72-3
I am not going to go into the history, as anybody who plays WWII games will have at least one or two if not more, books on this particular subject.   And if you don't, click on the link to the left, it will take you to the US Army Center of Military History Online where you can read up on the invasion and battle in CMH pub 72-3.  BTW, that is public domain and you can download the .pdf for free. Plus it is very well written.

Evaluation: Though the game came out a few years ago, it is one of "those" type of games that just doesn't go out of style or play. And in this latest edition, I believe more people will have access to this game.  The graphics are well done.  The rules are good, as is the game's concept. I am giving this game an 8 out of 10. Beautiful graphics, game map, counter, etc. Rules that are good. Honestly, one can't go wrong with this little gem.

Summary: The Allies will get walked over and beaten most of the time. Depending on how each side picks one of their victory condition markers will depend on the Allied victory or not. Historic, yeah, but not fun.  However, this is actually good, as it is not one of those games that is easily figured out. It will make one think.

There is a rule called "MacArthur takes Command" (rule 5.3) that allows the Allied player to have a secondary movement or combat just like the IJA player, except the Allied player can preform the same phase twice in a row (i.e. two movements or combats for example), but only once from turn 3 onward. And this takes the sting out of lack of movement and combat like the IJA player has. There is another rule that comes into possible play on game turn 5. This is the Allies declaring Manila as an "Open City" (rule 8.4). This allows the Allies one extra movement point and Allies can use the infiltration movement (rule 6.2.3) like the IJA player.   And I failed to mention that in case of a tie in victory points, the Allies still win.

About the only quibble spots I have is the weakness (both combat and movement) of the Allied units and the non-ability to move and have combat once, much less twice. Of course, the non-ability to both move and have combat for the Allied player, could show the lack of equipment, whether transport or the age of equipment and/or lack of training the Allies in the Philippines and the training of the Japanese troops. Up to this point the Allies had not fought a major war for 23 years. And for this reason, I can understand why the rules and combat factors and movement allowances are the way they are.  LOL, how do you like that, I talked myself out of a quibble. 

Though General MacArthur was making himself a pain in the butt to the Chiefs of Staff in the US with requests for more troops and equipment, including tanks, since he took over command in the summer of 41 and was getting them, there just wasn't enough time to receive the personnel or train them to a higher combat readiness. It was also believed that the Japanese would not invade until April or May of 1942.

But, I do disagree about the 26th Cav Regt's movement allowance, as this unit was the most trained, mobile, and professional of all the units (Filipino and US) in the U.S. Army Forces of Far East.  If the Japanese can have a movement allowance (ma) of 4 with bicycles, then the 26th should have a ma of 4 with horses, if not more and be able to both move and attack.

The die roll at the end of a game turn for Air Combat simulates in a very easy manner on whether the Japanese can move their aircraft out of this theater of war to another. Even though the Japanese totally destroyed the Allied air, they couldn't take a chance that they didn't.  To keep the IJA player on their toes, VP is awarded for remaining Allied airfields until they have all been captured.

Neither side can afford to be lazy. The Allied player must plan and make the IJA player pay for every hex they take. The "MacArthur takes Command" rule, as well as "Open City" for Manila can be a boon for the Allies and the bane of the IJA.  The IJA player must plan out his strategy and be willing to modify his/her plans when Turns 3 and 5 take place. Regardless, the capture of the Allied airfields will deny victory points to the Allied player. 

For it's price, and honestly, the lack of counters (I like very low counter games), and the simple but elegantly thought out rules, make this game a steal. Buy it, support Jack Greene, and maybe he will be bringing more of War Drum Games to the USA.  I know I would like to see them. Just buy the damned thing, it is worth $17.

Yes, please do note this is a new format and one I will be using from now on.  Let me know if you enjoy it or not. 

-ab out 

note: updated May7, 2019 for English and to clarify a couple of thoughts.

This blog is considered to be a living blog. Changes will be made to it as needed to clarify, correct errors or update with new information.


  1. Great review Angry Bunny! Your review caused me to purchase the game, and am so glad I did. It is an excellent game, that I have played both face to face and solo dozens of times since acquiring it. Keep those reviews coming. I love your blog!

  2. why thank you "unknown". very much appreciated to hear from someone and get a compliment!!!


Post a Comment

Please, keep it real, otherwise it is gone.